Most international LSE students have been in London for quite some time now. Well, a fortnight at the very least. This post is directed towards you!
I am sure you have participated in all the London walks and guided tours, Orientation week at Houghton Street (which comes with the best LSE freebies), chosen your courses online and attended some of the careers events already. Based on my own experiences, I would like to share some thoughts, which I hope will be beneficial for you in some way.
- Choosing electives. It is very important to read the course requirements carefully before making a decision. LSE has the wonderful option of sampling lectures, which is very useful, particularly when you are in doubt about which course to go for. While you are supposed to choose your courses for Lent Term along with the Michaelmas Term, please do not panic as you will definitely be able to make changes to your course choices at the beginning of the Lent Term. Yes! The school understands that we grow up during the term and our thought processes change as we advance into the school year.
- Talk to your program administrator. The administrators are there for a reason. Always feel free to go to them with any problems that you may have including access (or lack of) to your Academic Advisor.
- Attend careers events. Sometimes it may seem a waste of time to go attend careers events as it is a little unnerving to fight your way through the swarm of people lined up there. Many students turn up in their best suits and it can seem daunting when you’ve walked into the fair straight after a late lecture, definitely not dressed in your best. I’ve seen that jeans work but it is advisable to wear a darker colour and a jacket. That helps you look the part. While how you look matters, the most important thing here is to create an impression. You should know what you’re looking for and in case you’re not sure where you are headed, you should ask. The companies are there to give you more information and you should not hesitate to ask questions.
- Participate in program activities. Sometimes we are so involved in trying to settle down and getting used to the place, we forget to interact with our program and classmates. Each one of us has come from different backgrounds and there is so much cultural diversity to be experienced. Make the effort to get out and involve yourself in more class activities. The experience and knowledge you will gain from these interactions will help broaden your perspectives and enrich you in ways that no books can. Most programs have a drinks and nibbles session at the lovely, grand Shaw Library. There’s just something unique about having a drink with your Professors surrounded by the rich aura of the Library.
- Contact the Volunteer Centre. The Volunteer Centre at the school is very active and they have a fair dedicated specifically to it. I have used their services and David Coles was extremely kind and encouraging in his role there. It’s good to volunteer simply because it does make a difference. The smallest act of kindness goes a long way. It is not mandatory to volunteer every week and you can volunteer whenever it is possible for you.
- Attend your lectures. This is extremely critical for each and every student. The school does not record attendance for lectures. However, it is not sufficient to attend seminars/classes alone. The examples and live interaction experience with Professors is unmatched despite the fact that the same lectures are recorded and available for online viewing.
- Complete your readings. This is a basic rule for any seminar/class. Depending on the course requirement, it is possible that every seminar participation may not be graded. This does not mean that you do not complete the readings. Most of the seminar questions end up being answered using the readings assigned for the week. While it is not important to complete all your readings, it is absolutely essential to do the key readings. It is very difficult to have a successful seminar if you have not done your basic reading.
- Start thinking about your dissertation. I know you think that your dissertation is something to be tackled in July after exams BUT it is helpful to start thinking about it and have a basic idea of what you want to do. If you plan to do interviews, start planning how you will gain access to companies, as it is difficult to talk to organizations during the summer months. And be ready to face rejections! Not every company is open to students undertaking research with them, plus there are many other students undertaking their dissertation work every year and it is very likely that they will all be targeting the same firms. If you can handle stress well, then you can put it off for later. But if you tend to get hyper and panic easily, then I would suggest that you get going sooner on it. Keep in regular touch with your supervisors. Their guidance is very helpful during the entire process of writing a dissertation.
- Do not forget to have fun. In a one year Master’s, there is a lot of work to be done. But take the time out to travel, explore and enjoy yourself. This one year is a time in which you will have plenty of opportunities to discover new things. Make the most of it. Go to the Christmas carnival at Hyde Park, enjoy the caramelized peanuts at Millennium Bridge, take a Thames cruise to the Greenwich Observatory. Ensure you have your National Rail card and make use of the discounts when going around England.
These are just some basic things I wish someone had told me during my first year at the School. But I did manage pretty well. Follow your instincts and keep yourself updated on happenings on campus and you will have a great time.
Have a wonderful term!